A runner is among the first to traverse the newly constructed Ocean City, NJ, boardwalk between Sixth and Seventh streets on Friday, Feb. 13. A project to rebuild a block of the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, is essentially complete, and the full length is now open to walkers, runners and cyclists.Workers took down barriers on Friday afternoon (Feb. 13), allowing access to half the width of the boardwalk. A few small work areas remain off limits on the other half.A pair of bicyclists test the new section of boardwalk on a frigid Friday afternoon.The boardwalk was barricaded at Fifth Street and Seventh Street in October, and a block of boardwalk was demolished and removed as part of the second phase of a multi-year project to replace the aging boardwalk between Fifth Street and 12th Street.The new phase covered the section between Sixth Street and Plaza Place (just north of Seventh Street).The project was not expected to be complete until the end of March. With the the construction of sections of decking off-site expediting work, Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration has proposed doubling the pace of the multiyear project, completing two blocks each year and finishing in the winter of 2017-18.This phase included reconfiguring the boardwalk ramp at Sixth Street, eliminating the north ramp and widening the south ramp. The access ramp for the disabled remains in place, leading to the municipal parking lot between Fifth and Sixth streets._____Sign up for free daily news updates from Ocean City.Like OCNJ Daily on Facebook._____City Council last summer awarded a $1.2 million contract to Fred M. Schiavone Construction of Malaga to complete the work. Schiavone was the contractor for the first phase of the project between Fifth and Sixth streets and for the new Welcome Center on the Route 52 causeway.Council has authorized spending up to $1,825,000 on this phase of the project, though the final construction costs are not in.The project used a stock of southern yellow pine that has been stored in Ocean City since the settlement of a lawsuit with the Louis J. Grasmick Lumber Co. of Baltimore in 2009.The city has long sought an alternative to pine for its boardwalk. The soft wood splits, cracks and exposes nails or screws after relatively short periods of time. The city has studied and tested many alternatives but has found none both suitable and cost-effective.But the existing stock of southern yellow pine is thicker (three inches) and sturdier that the pine used on other sections of the boardwalk, and the city administration says it is “optimistic” that it will hold up much better.Treated wooden pilings replaced the crumbling concrete substructure of this part of the boardwalk.Pedestrians and cyclists had been detoured off the Boardwalk at Seventh Street, down Wayne Avenue, through the municipal parking lot between Sixth and Fifth streets, and back to the boardwalk at Fifth Street since mid-October. The detour added about 0.17 miles to a run the length of the boardwalk (from 2.45 miles to 2.62 miles).